Union Pacific donates $15,000 to SSP youth task force

Youth Task Force members Hunter Cameron, Oskar Nordlie, Wyatt Lewis, Oliver Nordlie, Mayor Beth Baumann and Kelly Flatley received a donation from Union Pacific representatives Matt Hall and John York at South St. Paulís Jan. 6 council meeting. (submitted photo)

Christmas may be over, but it seems all the work the South St. Paul Mayor’s Youth Task Force to get on the “nice” list last year is still paying off.

The group, which engages local kids in fifth through 12th grade in community-building activities, received a $15,000 donation from Union Pacific Railroad at the South St. Paul City Council’s Jan. 6 meeting.

“Wow, second time I’ve been speechless in my whole life,” Mayor Beth Baumann quipped after the amount was revealed.

An ongoing commitment

Dennis Egan, a consultant for Union Pacific who presented the donation, praised the youth group for its civic and charitable works and pledged continued support from the railroad in the future.

“We want to make sure this is not just a one-time check,” Egan said. “This is an ongoing commitment from the railroad. We just think this is a very worthwhile program.”

Founded in 2008, the Mayor’s Youth Task Force is intended to provide student with constructive activities by hosting community events like the annual water balloon dodgeball tournament, Swimming Under the Stars and Holidaze in South St. Paul.

The group also organizes charitable events such as the South St. Paul Food Drive, the Fill the Backpack Campaign, which collects school supplies for kids in need, and hat and mitten drive, among others. The group receives no city funding and depends entirely on donations and grants to cover its activities.

John York, manager of terminal operations in South St. Paul, said at the meeting working with the Youth Task Force is an opportunity for Union Pacific to strengthen ties with the city.

“We’re determined to support positive change in South St. Paul,” York said.

Quite a surprise

Several council members gasped audibly when the amount was announced.

“It’s unexpected, and quite surprising, and I think it will be put to good use,” Council member Todd Podgorski said. “It’s great to see that type of large donation come in, especially as we start the new year.”

Baumann also thanked the railroad and gave her assurance the funds would be well-spent.

“I want to thank you guys so much on behalf of the Mayor’s Youth Task Force and the community of South St. Paul,” Baumann said. “This money will do a lot of good for keeping kids doing things that are healthy and helpful for the community rather than things that are damaging to the community. That’s our goal.”

Luke Reiter can be reached at lreiter@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815.

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